A fisherman in Indonesia, known only as Saeruddin, recently brought a very different kind of haul, capturing what looks like a Chinese underwater drone. In the past two years, at least two other very similar, if not identical, ocean-going gliding unmanned underwater robots have been found in Indonesian waters. This raises questions about whether the Chinese government is cautiously conducting underwater surveys of routes between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and this information may be particularly useful for its submarines to sail through these areas when they are submerged.
According to reports, Saeruddin caught the drone on December 20, 2020, near the Sierra Da Islands near the Sierra Islands in South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, in the center of the archipelago. He then handed it over to the local police, who then handed it over to the Indonesian army.
Indonesian media reports Detik News He said that the nose of this drone appears to be some sort of sensor array, which is less than 7.4 feet in length, which is not a long antenna or sensor protruding from the rear end. Photos of the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) show that it has a torpedo-shaped body with a pair of wings and a vertical tail mounted towards the center.
Twitter user @Jatosint was the first to notice the strong similarity with Sea Wing UUV, which was developed and produced by the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences Shenyang Institute of Automation, and has been in use since at least 2014. A marine glider-type underwater unmanned aircraft, the “Sea Wing”, with the help of its wings and tail, dives repeatedly and then resurfaces and advances in the water. It uses an internal system to perform these operations. The internal system is essentially a balloon that expands and contracts as pressurized oil enters and exits, thereby changing its buoyancy.
China has made the dubious claim in the past that the “Sea Wing” drone can stay at sea for more than 30 days and can dive four miles below the surface.
CAS publicly uses Sea Wings for ocean research, and its sensors can measure things such as the strength and direction of water currents, as well as water temperature, oxygen content, and salinity. These are common tasks of UUVs, and UUVs are used worldwide, including military forces.
In December 2019, the Chinese survey ship Xiangyanghong 06 Twelve of them were launched into the East Indian Ocean. CAS said the drones eventually flew more than 12,000 kilometers (or 7,500 miles) in total. Chinese authorities have not reported any missing drones, but it is worth noting that the initial report stated that 14 drones have been deployed instead of 12. At the same time, it is unclear whether the prevailing currents can carry the disabled sea wing all the way to the waters near the Celaya Islands.
This is not the first time a sea-wing drone has been found in Indonesian waters. In January, one was found near the Masalembu Islands, about 400 miles west of the Celaya Islands. In March 2019, another one was found in the waters closer to the northwest of the Riau Islands. These three groups of islands are located in bodies of water, which constitute an important part of the many maritime routes extending between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
Although we don’t know the exact configuration of UUVs found in the waters around Indonesia, glider-type underwater drones are also often used for hydrographic surveys and help create underwater maps. This information is useful for creating accurate charts to support naval operations and commercial transportation and civil aviation activities. For submarine crews navigating under the sea, having detailed seabed contour maps is particularly valuable.
As the People’s Liberation Army Navy plans to project more and more power far away from China’s coastline, the latest charts and charts with various key waterways will become more and more important for daily activities and any other activities. Actual combat operations in the future. The South China Sea is already a fiercely competitive water area, and almost all countries in the region are arguing about Beijing’s vast territorial claims.
In 2017, there was also a report saying that the Chinese government is testing how glider-style UUVs (probably a version of Seawing) can act as communication and data relay nodes to help quickly transmit information, which may be useful for detecting and tracking foreign submarines in the South China Sea. movement. In the same year, news about China’s plan to establish an underwater sensor network in the area came out, ostensibly for environmental research, and may also have potential for anti-submarine warfare applications.
Although we cannot say with certainty what the role of these UUVs in Indonesian waters is, it is not surprising that there are doubts about the potential dual activities of civilians and military. In fact, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Planner III A certain class of rescue ship snatched a U.S. Navy glider. The glider conducted an oceanographic survey in the South China Sea in 2016, in part to try to see if it was actually collecting more intelligence information.
Being able to check gliders and their payloads could have provided China’s own intelligence agencies with a certain degree of useful information. It is likely that the Indonesian military has been looking for drones that the country’s fishermen continue to recover, hoping to gather any useful details about its capabilities and activities.
As China’s naval activities through the Western Pacific into the Indian Ocean continue to grow, it seems equally likely that such discoveries will become more common. In 2018, a Vietnamese fisherman discovered fish that appeared to be Chinese torpedoes, which may have been left over from some type of exercise. This discovery also highlighted the growing presence of PLAN in the South China Sea. In 2015, the Chinese authorities themselves announced that a fisherman had recovered what they called a torpedo-shaped underwater intelligent “robot” located in the coastal area of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, which is the main base of PLAN.
People have to imagine that, even if nothing else, Indonesian fishermen are increasingly looking for more unusual catches in the country’s waters.
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